There are so many places that gender inequality affects women and men, but one of the most impactful—especially when it comes to kids’ financial futures—is inequality in the workplace.
Women don’t earn as much money as men do because of things like restricted access to promotions and workplace advancement, and some career paths are still very difficult to follow for women, because of implicit biases against hiring women or sexist policies around health care, parental leave, and harassment, to name a few.
It is important to start talking to your kids about gender equality early on with your kids; here are a few ways to get you started:
Tell personal stories from mom and dad’s life experiences.
Stories stick with us, especially the ones we hear from people we love. Kids (no matter how rebellious!) look up to their parents, and what they hear when they’re young helps shape their worldview for years to come. You can use your kids’ curiosity about your lives as an opportunity to teach important lessons about gender equality that will make an impact on how your kids act growing up, and as adults down the road.
Consider these questions as you brainstorm which stories to tell:
- How did you learn about gender equality?
- When has gender inequality at work negatively affected you or somebody you love?
- When did you set a positive example in your own life? Did you insist a woman get paid fairly? Did you rally in college for fair maternity leave?
- How did your childhood differ from your own parents (i.e. your child’s grandma and grandpa)? What progress has been made?
Be sure to plan ahead a little so you can add fun details like what crazy clothes you wore back in the day, did you get to skip school for a protest, or how you celebrated a victory?
Use present-day examples of gender inequality to ask: what would you do?
Gender inequality at work is still a huge problem; American women make about 80% of what men do. In your own life and in the news, pay attention to how gender inequality affects you and your community, then bring those examples to your kids. Going about your day, did you notice…
- Women being treated less seriously at places like car dealerships, banks or mechanics, or being offered higher prices compared to men?
- Women discussing money and marriage differently from how men discuss those things?
- Stay-at-home mom’s being treated differently than moms working outside the home?
Scan the news for similar stories. Some will be obvious, like the Women’s March, which included worker’s rights on its platform. Try to look beyond national headlines and check out local newspapers and TV, too; when a story takes place close to home, kids will have an easier time digesting it.
After explaining what happened, turn the tables and ask your kids questions like: Do you think this is fair? Why or why not? What would you do if you saw this happening, or if this happened to you?
Turn it into a conversation so they can start putting themselves in the scenarios they will personally face later in life. Discussing these present-day examples might get frustrating for your kids, so explain why having these conversations today will help them get better in the future.
There are also many great books and games you can use in addition to sharing your personal stories.
Of course there’s a lot more left for us to teach kids about gender equality beyond how it applies at work. However, much of the financial disparity between men and women starts in the workplace: Women earn less, pay down debt more slowly, have lower savings, and are less confident in their financial choices.
Stories are a great start, but it’s also important to get kids to empathize with people other than themselves and to consider how they would feel or react in different scenarios. Parents have a great opportunity to make a huge impact on the future—through their kids. Having these conversations is just the beginning.